DID MESSI DESERVE THE BALLON D ‘ OR
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and Argentina has beaten Real Madrid‘s Cristiano Ronaldo and team-mate Xavi to claim the Fifa Ballon d’Or award for the best player of 2011.
It is the third straight Ballon d’Or success for Messi, who has now won the first two awards since the prestigious prize was merged with Fifa’s World Player of the Year gong in 2010.
Messi was the clear favourite to claim the title after helping Barca to a third straight La Liga title in 2011 and a second Champions League success in three years.
Simply The Best
Messi beat team-mates Andres Iniesta and Xavi to the award in 2010, even though his colleagues had shone for Spain in their World Cup success in South Africa.
This time around there appeared little doubt he would claim the prize, as the undoubted star of a Barca side dominating domestically and on the continent in 2010-11.
Barca claimed La Liga and the Champions League last term, losing out to Real Madrid only in the final of the Copa del Rey in April, when Ronaldo rose to head the winner and secure his side’s first silverware since 2007-08.
Messi enjoyed the last laugh over his Portuguese rival in 2011, however, claiming five trophies overall with Barca as the Catalans picked up the Spanish Supercopa, the Uefa Super Cup and the World Club Cup later in the year.
The Argentine forward, still only 24, has now drawn level with three-time winners Michel Platini – the only other player to win three in a row – Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten.
And Cruyff, who has watched Messi emerge at Barca over the last few years, believes the Argentine can go on to claim the award six or seven times.
Messi also came out on top in the Goal.com 50 countdown of the world’s best players in 2010-11, earlier on this year.
The Argentine scored 59 goals in 70 appearances for club and country in 2011, including 55 in 57 for Barcelona. He also racked up an incredible 35 assists in the calendar year.
In other news
Neymar was rewarded for his stunning solo strike during Santos’ 5-4 defeat against Flamengo in the Brasileirao in July. The 19-year-old moved past a string of opponents before calmly sending the ball past the goalkeeper. The Brazil international, who also beat Barcelona’s Lionel Messi for the honour, was presented the award by Real Madrid legend Hugo Sanchez. Speaking on the special occasion, Neymar said: “I am really happy to be at this ceremony, to win this award against two great players, of whom I am fan. “I want to thank God for this and I would like to wish everyone a good ceremony.” Neymar, who has a contract with Santos until 2015, has committed his club future to the Copa Libertadores holders until the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil.
PEP took the MANAGER OF THE YEAR. Look Fergie and Jose are big but PEP is a bozza
The blow was softened for Ferguson by the Fifa Presidential Award, which was presented to him by Fifa president Sepp Blatter in recognition of his 25 years of service in the Old Trafford dug-out.
“I’ve been a lucky manager to have such great players from the word go right through to today,” said the 70-year-old Scot.
“What makes United such a special club, from our past right up to the present day, is that they have always retained the courage to play and the courage to win.”
Barca boasted five players in the FIFPro XI for 2011, with Dani Alves, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta selected alongside Xavi and Messi.
Madrid had four representatives – Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso and Ronaldo – while Manchester United pair Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney completed the line-up.
Messi and Rooney missed out on the Fifa Puskas Award for the best goal of 2011, which was awarded to Santos forward Neymar for a remarkable solo goal that he scored in a Brazilian league game against Flamengo.
Japanese midfielder Homare Sawa claimed the women’s equivalent of the Ballon d’Or, after she won the Golden Boot for top scorer and the Golden Ball for player of the tournament as Japan secured their first ever women’s World Cup title in Germany.
Marta of Brazil and United States striker Abby Wambach were also nominated.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki was named Women’s Coach of the Year, ahead of France coach Bruno Bini and the USA’s Swedish coach Pia Sundhage.